PM Modi undertakes sortie on Tejas aircraft, says his experience bolstered confidence in indigenous capabilities

PM Modi undertakes sortie on Tejas aircraft, says his experience bolstered confidence in indigenous capabilities

Bengaluru/New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) Clad in an olive green fighter pilot G-suit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday took to the skies in the homegrown Light Combat Aircraft Tejas after which he said the experience has bolstered his confidence in the country's indigenous capabilities.

It was for the first time that an Indian prime minister undertook a fighter aircraft sortie, according to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The sortie was carried out from the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment, an IAF statement said, adding that during the 30-minute sortie over the skies of Bengaluru the capabilities of Tejas were demonstrated to the prime minister Wearing aviator glasses and a helmet, an elated Modi, who undertook the sortie sitting in the rear seat behind the pilot in the cockpit, waved multiple times from the twin-seater aircraft.

Taking to social media platform 'X', the prime minister said, 'Successfully completed a sortie on the Tejas.' 'The experience was incredibly enriching, significantly bolstering my confidence in our country's indigenous capabilities, and leaving me with a renewed sense of pride and optimism about our national potential.' In the video footage of his sortie, the prime minister can be seen flashing thumbs-up gestures with a broad smile after boarding the aircraft and on landing.

He also posed standing next to the aircraft, pointing to 'Tejas' written on it.

'Flying in Tejas today, I can say with immense pride that due to our hard work and dedication, we are no less than anyone in the world in the field of self-reliance. Heartiest congratulations to the Indian Air Force, DRDO and HAL as well as all Indians,' Modi added.

Modi earlier walked towards the waiting pilot and had a brief chat with him before boarding the aircraft and positioning himself properly with the help of the IAF personnel.

During the sortie, the prime minister could be seen keenly observing the surroundings and waving at another fighter aircraft, flying at a visible distance, the footage taken from cameras inside the cabin and the other aircraft showed.

On landing, the prime minister waved and made thumbs-up gestures again applauding the IAF personnel.

Modi arrived in Bengaluru earlier in the day and visited the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL), a Defence PSU, to review the ongoing work at its manufacturing facilities, officials said.

According to the IAF, Modi applauded the scientists, engineers and flight test crew associated with the designing, development and production of the state of art fighter aircraft.

An IAF statement said the prime minister expressed pride in the capabilities of Indian engineers and scientists.

In the coming years, Tejas would be the largest fleet of fighter aircraft to be operated by the IAF, it said, adding that today’s sortie by the prime minister will encourage the aeronautics ecosystem and give a big boost to 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' in the defence sector.

Modi has been pushing for indigenous production of defence products and highlighting how his government has boosted their manufacturing in India and also their exports.

Several countries have evinced interest in procuring Tejas and US defence giant GE Aerospace had inked a pact with HAL to jointly produce engines for the Mk-II-Tejas during the prime minister's recent state visit to the US.

The Congress took a swipe at Prime Minister Modi after he took the sortie and hailed India's indigenous capabilities, saying it doesn't cost the 'master of chunavi photo-ops' much to acknowledge the efforts and endeavours prior to 2014. Modi's first term as prime minister commenced in 2014.

In a post on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, 'Tejas is yet another tribute to our indigenous scientific and technological capacity and capability that has been built up resolutely over the decades.' Tejas has been designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) that was established in 1984 and that worked collaboratively with the HAL, National Aerospace Laboratories(NAL), the IAF and the Indian Navy, the former union minister said.

The design for the LCA was finalised six years later, he pointed out.

Operational clearance was granted finally in 2011, Ramesh said, adding that there are, of course, a number of other key milestones as well.

'It doesn't cost the master of 'chunavi photo-ops' much to acknowledge the efforts and endeavours prior to 2014 that were essential to his claiming credit now.' An IAF statement said it was for the first time ever that an indigenous twin seat fighter has been designed, developed and manufactured in India.

Noting that with an amalgamation of contemporary concepts and technologies such as quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control, carefree manoeuvring, advanced glass cockpit, integrated digital avionics systems and advanced composite materials for the airframe, the statement said the state-of-the-art fighter aircraft has enhanced the defence capabilities and preparedness of the nation.

The IAF test crew have been involved with the Tejas project right from conceptual stage till prototype testing. The first version of the aircraft was inducted into the IAF in 2016. Currently, two squadrons of IAF, 45 Squadron and 18 Squadron, are fully operational with Tejas.

Under the Narendra Modi government, an order valued at Rs 36,468 crore for the delivery of 83 LCA Mk 1A Tejas aircraft has been placed with the HAL, official sources said.

The delivery of these Tejas aircraft is scheduled to begin by February 2024, they said, asserting that the government has taken giant steps for increasing India's defence preparedness and indigenisation, which includes Tejas fighter aircraft.

More than Rs 9,000 crore has been sanctioned for the development of LCA Mk 2, an updated and more lethal version of LCA Tejas, the sources said.

To further promote indigenisation, including of the aircraft engine, the transfer of technology for manufacturing of the GE engine in India was negotiated with the US firm during Modi's visit to the the country in June 2023, they added.PTI KSU RS KR ASK GSN

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